Flashes erase 17-point deficit to advance to MAC quarterfinals

Kent State sophomore guard Megan Carter dribbles during the Flashes’ 80-76 overtime win against Toledo on March 5, 2018. Carter scored a game-high 24 points off the bench to lead the Flashes to a first-round Mid-American Conference tournament victory.

Ian Kreider

The Kent State women’s basketball team found itself in a familiar position — losing by double-digits in the second half — during its 80-76 overtime win at Toledo in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament Monday.

Toledo (17-14, 8-11 Mid-American Conference) went on a 16-2 run midway through the second quarter that extended its lead to 36-23 with 2:37 left. The lead eventually ballooned to 17 with 2:16 left in the third quarter.

Then, Kent State sophomore guard Megan Carter took over, scoring seven points during an 11-2 run, including a three-point runner at the buzzer to make the score 55-47 in Toledo’s favor heading into the fourth quarter.

Kent State (13-18, 6-13 MAC) was able to cut the lead despite senior forward and leading scorer Jordan Korinek finishing the first three quarters with only two points on 1-for-9 shooting.

The Rockets couldn’t hold Korinek down much longer, as she would own the fourth quarter, scoring 14 points on 7-for-8 shooting.

“My teammates were really supportive and my coaches kept telling me to just keep shooting,” Korinek said. “Honestly, it was really frustrating not being able to make it, but the rest of our team kept hitting shots. (Point guard) Naddiyah (Cross) had some really good passes.”

Cross finished the game with her second 20-point performance of the year, shooting 3-for-8 from behind the arc. She added seven points in the fourth quarter. The Flashes matched their highest scoring quarter of the season in the final period, pouring in 25 points on 10-for-17 shooting as a team. 

Kent State executed on both sides of the ball down the stretch. Alexa Golden added three blocks in the final two periods.

“Without her defensive effort, we don’t win that basketball game,” Kent State coach Todd Starkey said. “In so many games this year, she has been the unsung hero for us.”

Toledo’s Mikaela Boyd hit a tough layup in the lane over Cross to put Toledo up, 72-70, with 4.8 seconds left. Starkey called a timeout and rallied his players for one final play.

The play saw Cross as the inbounder at around mid-court. Carter came off a screen, and Cross hit her in stride with a pass leading her right to the basket as Sarah St. Fort fouled her hard on the attempt.

“Megan was my first option on that play,” Cross recalls. “I throw that pass a lot.”

Carter stepped up to the line and knocked down both foul shots to tie the game at 72 with only three seconds left in regulation.

“I closed my eyes for a split second, and I told myself I was in my backyard,” Carter said of the clutch free throws.

Carter finished with a game-high 24 points on 8-for-17 shooting, adding six rebounds.

The Flashes outscored Toledo, 8-4, in overtime, as Korinek and Golden knocked down foul shots late to help send Kent State to Cleveland for the second time in as many years.

Starkey said his team hung around just long enough to erase the 17-point deficit and complete one of the grittiest, most impressive comebacks in recent Kent State history.

“They win a lot of basketball games here; they’re expected to win here,” Starkey said of Toledo’s impressive home record. “We wanted to get to a situation where the ‘what if’ factor comes into play, where they head over to their bench thinking, ‘What if we lose this game?’ So then they start playing a little differently than they typically do.’”

Kent State will take on Buffalo at a time to be determined Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena. The Flashes have struggled against the Bulls this season, losing by a combined total of 68 points in their previous two meetings this season.

Ian Kreider is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected]